1. #1
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    Default How would you respond?

    Recently we had this event:

    Reports of Chlroine Gas Smell in one of our buildings.

    First responders on scene had no gear with them, but they entered the building looking for the room. There were 'canaries' throughout the hallway that were talking and conducitng business. They figured that they would see the Chlorine gas in the air with its distinctive green color. Once around the corner, they smelled a strong bleach odor.

    We suited people up in Level B and SCBA to go mitigate and clean up the bleach on the ground. One of our guys was providing Site Access and developed a nauseating headache while sitting at an open fresh air door.

    We figured that he was very sensitive to the odor as others were in the same area, with no ill effects. In addition, we were venting the building by turning up the areas HVAC system to turn the air over quicker, and by opening outside doors to the let the wind blow through/out.

    The question:

    Besides the ol' nose, what can we use to look for the bleach smell? My current 4-gas and 4-gas PID picked up nothing from the bleach.

    Could we have responded differently to prevent this from occurring?

    I am looking for a way to prevent one of my guys getting injured while responding.

    Thanks!
    Anthony

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    I am not a chemical worker, or a HAZMAT tech, but I have worked and supervised in industrial pool environments for years. The first couple of things I can tell you are:


    1. Chlorine exposure builds a tolerance in many people. Most Pool and Chemical workers can work for hours in environments that would knock out the average joe.

    2. You can be immobilized by Chlorine long before you can see a cloud. I was personally knocked out once by a concentrated puck dispenser, after just inhaling a few breaths of gas that had formed at the top of the dispenser and vented through the tiny pressure release valve. I barely had time to smell it coming.

    3. One Chlorine exposure is too many. I am sure my lungs are permanently affected after one or two bad exposures to moderate levels (but short duration) of Chlorine gas.


    As for detection, you really need either a specific gas detector, or even a disposable tube style detector. The safest approach is to mask up upon identification of the odour and/or confirmation of a chemical release, regardeless of what the "canaries" are doing.

    The old fellow that gave me my orientation and training years ago could smoke, eat a sandwich, and tell a joke in a gas cloud that would knock out an elephant. That was simply the result of many years of low level exposure and his industrial-grade tolerance.

    I would also suggest some PPV, and make sure you know where you're blowing your cloud.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

    IACOJ

  3. #3
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    Bleach smell = Chlorine

    Was there any questioning done before the "search" was conducted?

    Personally we would have gotten info on areas where chlorine cylinders or bleach (sodium hypochlorite) would be stored, and initiated our recon team to those areas. Question the person who first reported it as to what, when, where, how, why........Evacuate the downwind area to a reasonable distance (the building) and account for all persons as best as possible to determine if a victim is possible, and limit access until the true nature of the hazard could be determined.

    If reactive chemicals are present, we will increase our PPE level to "A" until the situation has been properly identified. 2 man recon teams until the area is located. Full decon prep.

    If the fire department has not responded with a full arenal of engine and attack companies, get them on scene (if there is more than average amount of chlorine being stored) since it is an oxidizer. And while I do agree that PPV is a good option, I would only use it AFTER the leak or spill is located/controlled since it could force these vapors to areas of the structure that have not been contaminated yet.

    The problem with chlorine is that it mixes with the moisture in your lungs and forms HCl (Hydrochloric acid) which causes considerable damage and pneumonia.


    Keep in mind, I am an inexperienced HazMat Tech, and may be off,but these are my first instincts. I am still learning a lot!
    Last edited by SWLAFireDawg; 05-02-2007 at 11:36 PM.

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    Bleach smell does equal chlorine. True.

    Our facility does not store Chlorine or large amounts of bleach on hand. We do make our 5% bleach solution for cleaning in certain areas. This is made using 1 gallon containers of household bleach.

    My partner and I were the first ones at the building and we were making recon to determine if this chlorine gas smell was true. It had been reported by an office area approximately 20' from the source.
    The room was a parts cleaning room. They store no more than 10 gallons (containers) of bleach at one time.

    We could see in the room and determine that no one was down.

    After interviewing people involved, they told us that they had dropped a 1 gallon container of bleach on the floor and tried to flood it with water to dilute it down, but the smell got to them, so they left (and went to lunch!). We were called by an office area down the hall from this room.

    We do not call the fire department as we are our company HazMat team. Alot of people are trained just as well our local Fire unit. We also have many of the same toys that they have. =) And some more that they borrow from us. Yes, it is an oxidizer, but we made the determination, after inteviewing that we did not need them for this call.

    What I am really interested in is, what tool is out there to 'sniff' the area for me?

    I am also a inexperienced HazMat Tech (Specialist is 4 weeks). Still learning. The day I quit learning, is the day I quit this business.

    Thanks!
    Anthony

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    As for the monitoring, since we use very little chlorine or bleach as well, we use Draeger tubes I believe.

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    SWLA
    Thanks for all the information, much appreciated.

    Good old fashion Draeger tubes ... Was hoping there was something else to use, something nifty, but like you, we don't come across chlorine/bleach very often in our environment.

    Thanks again!
    Anthony

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    Toss a shirt in the room and see if it turns white?
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Toss a shirt in the room and see if it turns white?
    I will suggest that, next time!

  9. #9
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    My dept has an MSA 5 Star gas detector with a chlorine sensor, so they are out there.

  10. #10
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    If chlorine incidents are rare, I would stick with the draeger tubes. I can't see investing the money in an expensive gas detector for anoccasional occurence. The only downfall to a Draeger is the shelf life.

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    Default Ammonia for chlorine detection

    Years ago, I was a lifeguard. At facilities that use gas chlorine for disinfection of pool water, there is a need to determine if there is a leak at the fittings when tanks are changed over. To do this, ammonia is used. A small squeeze bottle of ammonia (which, if you recall, is gaseous ammonia dissolved in water) is used to "puff" a small amount of gaseous ammonia in the direction of the freshly-tightened fittings. The presence of chlorine forms chloramine (toxic! nasty! and also used to disinfect water in some cities), which appears as a white mist.

    I have no idea as to the lower level of detection that this works at. The concentrations at which gaseous ammonia and chlorine react may well be substantially higher than is IDLH. However, it is a test commonly used on the small scale to look for leaks; it is inexpensive and reliable. Note that the use of LIQUID ammonia on brass and copper fittings (when the testing gets a little too rigorous and liquid is dispensed instead of gas) may be damaging to fittings in the long run.

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